Sunday, May 15, 2016

Yosemite National Park

Post by Henry

I've been here before on backpacking trips and it's the first place Loretta and I went on vacation together ten (10) years ago.  Now that we're 'living' just 125 miles away, we had to make at least one excursion to the park.  So we packed up the tent camping gear and spent several days in Yosemite Valley.

All I can say is - wow!  More like WOW!!!  Yes, we've both been here before, but that doesn't make the WOW factor any less.  Can I just go ahead and say it again?  W O W !!!

We would have to say it's the most beautiful place we've ever been.

We came in from the south entrance and the first 20 miles or so is a twisting forested road, slowly gaining elevation.  You then come upon a fairly long tunnel and on the other side of it - WHAM! - you're sucker punched with a view of Yosemite Valley that contains El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls all in one.

Scenic Overlook
Tunnel View

There's a scenic overlook here named Tunnel View that's swarming with folks taking pictures and selfies.  Nearby is the appropriately named Inspiration Point Trail where you can escape the scenic overlook crowds.

A few more miles down the road, you arrive in Yosemite Valley and it's one iconic feature after another. Bridalveil Falls.  Cathedral Rocks.  El Capitan.  Sentinel Dome and Falls.  Half Dome. Around every bend in the road there's a new view of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.

Bridalveil Falls
Double Rainbow

Cathedral Rocks

El Capitan

Half Dome

Upper and Lower
Yosemite Falls

The waterfalls were just booming, too.  According to one Ranger, due to a better than average snowfall this winter, the water flow of the falls is the best in recent memory.  I paid a price for this, though.  On a hike to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, the force of the water was generating wind gusts and it blew my favorite hat off my head and into the rushing river below - and gone!  Boo Hoo. Luckily it wasn't Loretta's brand new Tilley hat washed away forever.

Rock climbing is a big sport at Yosemite - El Capitan being the ultimate.  We sat in a field across from El Capitan one afternoon and watched a couple of rock climbers.  This series of photos should give you some perspective of the massive size of El Capitan, which rises to an elevation of 7,569'!

Two Rock Climbers

Two Rock Climbers
Zoom 1

Two Rock Climbers
Zoom 2

Two Rock Climbers
Zoom 3

Yosemite Valley is open year round, while some of the other higher elevation roads open closer to summer as they are able to clear them of snow.  Glacier Point Road opened about a week before we arrived, so we ventured out there one day.  Still plenty of snow on the ground as you gain elevation towards the point and actually there's two points.  Washburn and Glacier Point.

Snow at Glacier Point
May 3, 2016

And again - WOW!

At Washburn Point is a unique side view of Half Dome (elevation 8,836'), plus North Dome, Basket Dome and various mountain peaks stretching off toward the horizon.  Oh, and three more waterfalls, too.  Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and Illilouette Falls.

View from Washburn Point

At Glacier Point you see all of the above plus another view of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and you get a pretty good view down most of the Yosemite Valley floor and the Merced River that flows through it.

View of Yosemite Valley
Glacier Point

We also spotted some wildlife....

Coyote Crossing Trail

Young Deer

And the Pacific Dogwoods were blooming.

Pacific Dogwood
Larger than Loretta's Hand!

One not so great 'Wow' factor about Yosemite is the crowds of people.  The weekdays were more tolerable, but the weekend was just a crush of humanity.  By the afternoon Yosemite Valley was just one big traffic jam.  The park service runs a free shuttle bus system to help keep some cars off the road, but by late afternoon even the buses are stuck in traffic.  Once people start coming out for summer vacation we're told it's traffic hell seven days a week.

We would like to come back to Yosemite when they open up Tioga Road, but according to the Park website, they don't have a projected date for that yet, as they are still clearing it of snow.  Neither one of us has been here in autumn, so maybe we'll return then before the roads get covered in snow again. Could the park possibly be more beautiful in the fall?  Wow!